I have to say that two days after the unfortunate Dublin riots, I am completely rioted-out. I can't think of Saturday without feeling a combination of sadness and nausea. It's completely depressing to me that a few hundred thugs could cast such a shadow on city and a country.
The media coverage today has been predictably depressing, from the worst-possible-scenario interpretations of Jeffrey Donaldson on Newstalk's Dunphy-less Dunphy show to the frightening eyewitness accounts. Henry McKeon had a fantastic report on the Moncrieff-less Moncrieff show. (In my next life, I want to come back as an Irish broadcaster - they apparently get loads of holidays.)
It's clear I was lucky enough to miss the worst action on Nassau Street. I was particularly taken with the story of the woman who grabbed a fire exstinguisher, sprayed a couple of hooligans to back them off from a burning car, and then put out the fire inside the car. Good on her. I'd like to buy her a pint or two.
I'd really thought Saturday could be a turning point and now it looks like the country and the peace process might be turning in the wrong direction. I'm somewhat encouraged by the public backlash and am very supportive of David Norris' idea to have the march again and invite everyone along, especially politicians like Bertie. I'd love to see regular citizens come out to the march to help provide safe passage for the marchers.
As I said in my last post, I don't believe the Love Ulster folks had the purest of intentions, but I do believe that they should have the right to air their grievances in a public manner, just like the Irish Ferries workers did last December. The possibility of a positive turning point still exists. It's time to reach out, to draw a line between the broken, difficult past and a better, brighter future. Arguing about things that happened 316 years ago or 90 years ago or 30 years ago is getting us nowhere.
History is important to remember, but not at the expense of the present and the future. Ireland of 2006 is a much different place than the Ireland of 1916 or 1922 or 1949. Likewise, Northern Ireland of 2006 is a much different place than the Northern Ireland of 1921 or 1972.
What would happen if the people in the middle of both communities, the people who were sick of the violence and sectarianism stepped up and said "I don't always agree with you, but both of our communities have suffered enough. I'm willing to do what it takes to move forward." Could that sort of grassroots, broad support marginalize the rabid and irrational sectarians on both sides? I think it could and I think it's time that the political leadership of both countries step forward and show the way. Condemnation is one thing but offering a viable alternative is quite another.
If you're interested in reading more about the riots and people's reactions to them, you'll find loads of reading goodness abounding on the Irish Blog O'Sphere. I highly recommend the following: